Bet Guvrin-Maresha National Park, Central District, Israel
This must see park contains an ancient architectural marvel – countless caves intended for a wide range of uses, a complete Roman amphitheater, and the impressive ruins of a fortress.
The national park has sparse woodlands and Mediterranean scrub, rich in many species of flora and fauna. Bet Guvrin-Maresha National Park is located in the heart of the Judean lowlands, a region of low hills, 250–350 m above sea level.
The hills are covered with Mediterranean woodland mainly used for grazing, while the fertile soil that has collected in the valleys has been cultivated since ancient times. Within the national park, which covers about 5,000 dunams (1,250 acres), is the biblical city of Maresha. During the Roman period Maresha was abandoned and the settlement moved to nearby Bet Guvrin. At that time, Bet Guvrin straddled an important junction on the road from Lod and Ashkelon to Hebron and Jerusalem.
The national park is famed for the numerous and fascinating caves dug by its ancient inhabitants. These caves served many purposes – as quarries, cisterns, storerooms, dovecotes, tombs, storage chambers for produce and shelters for farm animals. Hewn caves are a common phenomenon in the lowlands because the rocks that make up the region are soft, lightcolored chalk that is easy to quarry. In many places the chalk is covered with a harder crust, known as nari, some 1.5–3.0 m thick.
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